Weather isn’t Climate, but…

Now of course we all know weather isn’t climate, but carbon tax proponents never miss using a heat wave to argue for the necessity of their “price” on carbon, so I don’t mind using a cold snap like this weekend to point out that a price on carbon is really a tax on staying alive since without fossil fuels thousands of people would be freezing to death right now.

Last week as the polar vortex dipped deep into the Midwest US I heard a lot of smug Canadians joking about American reactions to the cold, but I really don’t know anyone who wouldn’t have been cold in the -33C in Minneapolis and -29C that hit Chicago. Indeed most Canadians live in places such as southern Ontario that rarely if ever get that cold (-33C would tie Toronto’s all time record), even here in Calgary the -30C expected tonight is not a number we get to every year.

Stories about the cold snap in the mainstream media have pushed two main lines. One line is that it’s actually hot elsewhere, which is true with regards to Australia, but not true when they reference northern Europe as “experts” quoted in articles like this did, which shows they’re just randomly picking places they hope people aren’t going to check, since last week also happened to include the coldest day in 7 years in the UK, and has not been particularly warm in much of the northern hemisphere.

The other and certainly more seemingly convincing argument is that the wandering polar vortex and accompanying severe cold is actually itself proof of climate change. Except that it’s tough to find anybody who was predicting severe winters being caused by global warming before the last polar vortex event in 2013-2014, generally all predictions were for the opposite, such as saying that snow would be a thing of the past. When someone takes information that counters what their model predicted in the past and says that it actually proves their model right, that kind of “postdiction” should raise questions about the integrity of what they’re doing.

Now CO2 does trap heat in the atmosphere and more of it will make the world warmer than it otherwise would have been. But that is really as much as we know and every prediction beyond that depends on how forecasters have decided to tune their models. Because they are making predictions based on conditions outside the range of historical data it’s really impossible that they can guarantee accuracy.

We don’t know exactly how much warmer, we can’t be sure what it otherwise would have been, we really don’t know whether a warmer world would actually be bad for us and we don’t know that the costs of adapting would be greater than the costs of drastic action to reduce fossil fuel use. The last two questions are certainly the big ones because they get outside the domain of physical science and into economic models, which are never right, but in the case of climate change doubting the economic models will nevertheless get you labelled a denier.

For example one of the biggest scare stories about the effects of climate change is the number of people who would potentially be displaced by rising seas. Estimates of the number vary, but on the high side seem to land around 2 billion over the next hundred years. This seems like a lot of people, but a hundred years is a long time. Over the last hundred years the earth’s population increased by about 5 billion and hundreds of millions more were displaced by wars. So last century a much smaller global economy was able to house and feed 5 billion new people and leave them far better off then they started. But now they want me to believe that 2 billion people moving around in the next century will make the world collapse?

They tell us we need to pay a carbon tax to discourage emissions to prevent some questionable downside, but they also tell us the carbon tax is so small that it would impose no hardship. These are contradictory statements. Multiple studies have shown that the tax would have to be much larger than it currently is to have a noticeable effect on emissions.

So they consciously devised a tax that is pointless in terms of achieving its stated goal. Because the real point was to use people’s willingness to do something for the environment as an excuse to raise government revenue. Which is why Premier Notley now scaremongers about all the programs she claims would have to be cut when the tax is repealed. Also, more deviously, the carbon tax transfers wealth, not from rich to poor, but from the rural and suburban base of conservative supporters who often have no choice but to drive long distances for work to the urban base of liberal/NDP supporters who have other options more readily available.

About the Author

Robert Gillis is an Engineer working in the Oil and Gas industry.